LOS ANGELES -- When Vinny Del Negro lit into his team after its embarrassing loss to the Houston Rockets on Saturday night, he hoped something would sink in. He hoped that his players would understand where they are in the season and how crucial these final games are.
It’s one thing to lose, but it’s another to not even bother showing up with enough energy and motivation to win. If Del Negro thought it couldn’t get any worse than Saturday, he was wrong. It got much worse through three quarters on Monday against the Indiana Pacers.
With everyone eager to see how the Clippers would respond to their 1-3 road trip and the verbal lashing they got from their coach, the Clippers fell behind 10-0 to start the game and trailed by as many as 24 points in the second half before rallying and ultimately losing 109-106. The late comeback, however, can’t camouflage how ugly the Clippers looked for 40 minutes on Monday, and the fact that they have now lost four of their past five games.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
It sounds simplistic, but much of what has ailed the Clippers recently is a complete lack of effort and energy. It’s the first thing Del Negro and many of the players point to when talking about their late season swoon. The Clippers are going through their worst slump at the worst possible time with just seven games left in the season and their postseason positioning hanging in the balance. The way they are playing, they will likely open up the playoffs on the road at either Memphis or Denver, which could easily mean a quick postseason if they don’t turn things around. The Clippers are now 17-17 in the second half of the season after starting the 2012-13 campaign a league-best 32-9, and are 7-8 in the month of March. Quite simply, they’re a .500 team since the midway point of the season, and they’re playing like it right now. If they don’t turn things around, it will be a quick playoff appearance for them after enjoying their best season in franchise history.
The Clippers need their biggest players to show up in their biggest games, and that simply didn’t happen for much of Monday’s game. Against the Pacers, Chris Paul was just 2-of-12 from the field for 10 points and four turnovers. Paul was just 1-for-10 through three quarters, with that one make taking place in the first quarter. Jamal Crawford was 8-of-19 from the field for 25 points, but struggled early in the game. Through three quarters he was just 3-for-10 from the field with eight points. DeAndre Jordan was essentially a nonfactor in the game, going 0-for-2 from the field with five rebounds and no assists in 17 minutes. Not exactly the kind of game you’d like from your starting center.
On the bright side -- if a team that has lost four of five games can have one of those -- the Clippers made a late comeback and came within a basket of beating the Pacers at the end of the game. The Clippers could have packed it in, as they did against Houston and as it looked like they did through three quarters Monday night. L.A., however, came back from being down by 24 points and made it a one-point game, but ultimately couldn’t complete the comeback. The Clippers are well past the point of moral victories and consolation prizes, but if they can build on the way they finished the game Monday night, maybe -- just maybe -- they can turn around their season over the last seven games on the schedule.